It was originally called Caere and in the twelfth century it became Caere Vetus (Cerveteri) to distinguish it from Caere Novum (the current Ceri).
The city has a long history as can be understood from the Etruscan necropolis. In the Greek period it enjoyed prestige for the quality of its people and because it was not involved in piracy; for this was the only Etruscan city to erect its own thesauros (treasure house) in Delphi.
Virgil said that here Enea received the sacred weapons from his mother Venus. Cerveteri subsequently gained influence over Roman culture.
The city is located on a plateau with overhanging steep cliffs, built in, at times, to the city walls on which were opened at least ten doors. The old town is medieval and is dominated by the Ruspoli castle that houses the Etruscan museum.